World Cocoa Foundation's Bill Guyton on the promise of mobile technology

Some of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers came together more than a decade ago, united around a pressing problem: How to increase the productivity of the world’s cocoa farmers?

This industry-wide issue brought together not only well-known brand names like Godiva, Hershey and Mars Inc., but also large multinationals with snack-food interests, including Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. In total, more than 100 companies are now part of the World Cocoa Foundation, a multi-sector partnership that aims to improve the global cocoa economy by working with coca farmers.

In the 13 years since was founded, the partnership among cocoa growers, major corporations and governments has resulted in higher incomes and an increase in productivity of 50 percent or more among cocoa farmers, said Bill Guyton, president of the World Cocoa Foundation, in a video interview with Devex Impact.

Bringing together industry competitors has not always been easy, he said.

“They don’t always necessarily like working together, but I think having the success of the cocoa farmer at the heart of what we do helps bring us all together.”

The foundation can point to past successes, but challenges remain. Even greater productivity is necessary to meet the growing demand for chocolate, especially as the food becomes popular in India and China, he said.

  

“There are concerns that supply may not be able to keep up with demand,” said Guyton.

Mobile technology has offered a new way for the foundation to reach cocoa farmers, he said. The foundation recently expanded its CocoaLink program from Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire, where it partners with French telecom Orange, corporate members and the government to deliver market information to farmers, many of whom work in such remote locations that they are not even part of a farmer’s cooperative.

“That [remoteness] creates a great challenge for the cocoa industry, but through mobile phone technology we’re able to reach farmers as we never were before.”

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About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.

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